“Stephy,” my mother cooed over the Skype connection, “could you pick up some Sensodyne toothpaste for your brother?”
“He’s such a sausage,” she continued. “He only told me about his sensitive teeth while in Los Angeles where, of course, it would be impossible to book a dental appointment. Could you also tell him to stop using hard bristle toothbrushes? He doesn’t listen to me- but he will listen to you.”
It was 7:00 in the morning on a cold, foggy weekday. I should have been leaving the house to pick Kyle up from the train station, but the weather had delayed his flight by four and a half hours.
My mother, sensing the agitation that arose from inaction, decided to end the call on a practical note. “Listen, be nice to your brother when he arrives. I know the delay is messing with your work hours, but he has had a rough start too.”
“Of course,” I sighed. “I’ll just go pick up some groceries and some Sensodyne while I wait.”
“And the soft-bristle toothbrush- I will pay you back.”
“Don’t be silly,” I replied. “It’ll be his welcome present. How fun.”
Sensitive teeth and delayed flights aside, my brother had had a rough start. It began with a Mom I only have $800 dollars for a two month trip announcement and didn’t stop until he showed up for his international flight without an Australian visa. He has a long list of positive attributes to his name, but foresight and preparedness are certainly not among them.
It had been two years since Kyle last visited us, so Barret and I were looking forward to hosting him for two weeks in our small studio apartment. After collecting him at the train station I plied him with apricot Danishes and ham croissants until he lamented the lack of space in his stomach. In a vote of sympathy, his luggage regurgitated its contents across the floor- dirty clothes (didn’t you just leave?), snotty white tissues, Mexican lollypops, electronic cords, protein powder, Creatine powder, protein bars, and allergy medicine.
“Sorry I have to go to work, but I figured you would want to nap while I was gone.” I said as I unruffled the top blanket. “I also put your new toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Kyle replied. “I’m fine. I just plan on walking all over the city. I really want to learn all the streets in Sydney.”
I had forgotten about Kyle’s odd cartographer-like fixation. I had also forgotten how loudly he snored, but he generously gave me all night to reacquaint myself with his sleep patterns. It was something like an animal drowning in quicksand- the guttural cry of fear followed by the glug of an air bubble erupting from murky depths.
“I think my uvula was swollen.” Kyle declared the following day as he skated across the kitchen floor in white calf-high socks. He was getting ready to go clubbing and had the cocky look of someone very satisfied with their hair.
“Let’s see your dance moves Steph,” he smirked. “No, I already know- you dance like this.” He mimed me shifting from one listless foot to another while holding an imaginary drink in his hand.
I couldn’t entirely disagree, but I didn’t want to admit that.
“Well,” I rolled my tired eyes. “You know what I do really well- breathe at night.”